Usry & Sons

Papa Usry Reflections

THE TOMATO WARS
Continuing Saga
Earl Usry
July 5, 2018
Like any good soldier at war, I was up with the dawn this morning, manning my observation post from the kitchen window as I performed my morning ritual of blending a healthy but distasteful powder with an 8 oz bottle of grapefruit juice.  A soldier can certainly hold back a gag reflex and recall that I am a trained soldier, now veteran, having been drafted in ’72.  I enjoy mentioning that fact often; I believe I’ve earned the right.
Which reminds me, have I mentioned that I was in a great rock band with Bill Smith, Johnny Davis and Lil’ John Smith when I was drafted?  And Danny Yarborough had joined us on keyboards.  I thought that I was in heaven, and surely heaven is similar to what I experienced playing in a band with those guys.  Of course, when one is blissfully enjoying heaven the devil has a habit of coming around to interrupt such bliss.  In my case, the devil was my local draft board, and since I was born in ’52 but graduated in ’71, most of my classmates were born in ’53 – I was December of ’52, too late to start school with children born earlier in ’52, and thus I had no college deferment.  Those born in ’52 but graduating in ’70 had college deferments.  My classmates born in ’53 had another year to worry about the draft, but in the end Nixon and his minions decided there would be no further draft calls and my classmates were spared.  Having had to endure being drafted and serving 24 months active duty, I’ve always been happy for my classmates.  Being drafted is something you just wouldn’t wish even on your mortal enemy.
I had completed half a year of college and made the Dean’s list.  But in the winter of ’72 I left college, knowing I would be drafted at some point that year, and I wanted to spend time with my family.  I took a job in construction as I awaited my fate and almost immediately heard from Bill, and immediately joined the new band he and Johnny were putting together.  It was a dream come true and we were together through that Spring of ’72 and up to the fateful day I had to report, July 14, 1972.  I was the only person called by our local draft board and as it turned out, I was one of two called from South Georgia and North Florida in that summer’s call.  I often thought they could have passed me by, but as it turned out they needed me to learn the electronics and guidance systems for the Nike-Herc Missile, which carried nuclear payloads and were used in Europe, South Korea and the states as air defense.  I served in what was then West Germany as part of the NATO air defense.
But I digress, which I seem to do more often these days… This morning I was at my post observing, ready for action.  As the officers often said to us as they prepared to send us into potential battle, “Confidence is high!”  Indeed, my confidence was high this morning.  Since my enemy, the squirrels, had taken all tomatoes of any size the day before, they weren’t interested in my tomato garden this morning.  Instead, we enjoyed a morning of détente and I watched with amusement as they ran around the back year, up and down the trees, chasing one another and demonstrating their speed and agility. 
Our morning of détente went well until their leader approached with the half tomato remains of one of the almost ripe tomatoes he took yesterday.  This was a deliberate antagonistic and confrontational move on the part of this little general and reminded me of the windbag currently occupying space in our Whitehouse.  I determined I could not allow this action without a response, and so released the dog. 
Riley is a young greyhound rescue dog that my darling daughter could not resist adopting as a puppy when she was in college and volunteering at a local animal shelter.  Riley is very high energy, in the best condition of any dog I’ve ever been around and the term fast just doesn’t adequately describe her incredible speed.  I called her to the back door and began the battle cry, “Go get those squirrels, go get ‘em!”  She became worked up into a high frenzy, ready to tear out the back door, and I gave her the command, “Confidence is high!  Go get ‘em, Girl!” as I flung open the back door.
Riley shot out of that door like a cannon, the squirrels froze for but a moment, then used the classic battle maneuver of scattering in different directions in full retreat.  Most of the squirrels were in the center pine garden of the backyard, which is about four car lengths from the backdoor.  Riley was bearing down on them when she noticed from the corner of her left eye the Lil’ General behind my tomato garden.  She was a site to see as she leaned into a full speed turn to the left and began bearing down on that smug ringleader.  I do believe he quickly wet himself as he dropped the remains of my tomato and made for the nearby large pine tree.  I do not believe he could have escaped Riley’s pursuit had it not been for that nearby pine.  Riley had put the fear of God into him, and this I know because despite being high in that very tall tree, he crossed to branches of other trees as he retreated far beyond the boundaries of my backyard.
After scattering all squirrels, she gave the classic battle cry, “Arrugh, Arrugh!” as only she can, then pranced back and forth demonstrating her superiority and military knowledge.  This morning’s battle certainly goes to Riley and I feel the tide of the war turning in our favor.  With a soldier like her, confidence actually is high.

TOMATO WARS
Earl Usry
July 4, 2018
On this fourth of July 2018, I've enjoyed a relaxing day, other than the exercise my squirrel friends have provided for me as I attempt to save a few of the tomatoes I've grown. I have a new garden spot this year and the plants are growing bigger and producing more than I've ever had, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by our neighborhood squirrels. I really don't mind sharing some of the tomatoes with them, but their manners are lacking, and they tend to prefer to bite and nibble on all the green tomatoes, then take one large green in their tiny mouth and scamper up a nearby tree and on into their nest. I laugh watching them, but my laughter abruptly turns to anger when I notice they've bitten almost every tomato on four vines.
I thought that I had an agreement with our dog to patrol and keep these rascals at bay, but she has explained that she can't be expected to be in the area of the garden at all times, she has an entire yard to patrol and scout. She further reminded me that it is hot outside and she must retire indoors from time to time to cool off. She's a rescue greyhound and gets so worked up explaining these facts to me. So, I turn to our old Yorkie; so willing to scout the back yard and chase those darn squirrels, constantly reporting with his secret encoded barking that sounds more like yipping while in pursuit, then scratching off with his back paws and prancing to the back door to be let in. It is hot out there and he is getting old.
I have three dogs and a cat living with us in our home. None of them are mine, or at least not originally. The young greyhound, Riley, is my daughter's dog. They very recently moved back home after her college graduation while she awaits entrance into Med School. She works in the medical field and has a lengthy commute, so Riley spends a lot of time with my wife and me. Beau is Mother's Yorkie and had to come live with us two years ago. Tiffany is another rescue, a mutt who has a lot of Border Collie in her genes and is also getting old. She came to us as my daughter's childhood dog but became so attached to my wife that she actually cries when she isn't in my wife's presence. Beau & Tiffany have many health issues and my expensive dependent health insurance doesn't cover them, though I spend about the same on them as I do on my wife and children. Oh yes, the cat. Clea, her middle name is Patra, and she acts as you would expect anyone named Clea Patra to act. She takes no s..., well, let's just say she tolerates little to nothing of which she isn't inclined to tolerate. She also came to us when my daughter brought home this tiny kitten, back when she was in high school. My wife said no, but my daughter had always been the daughter everyone wants - kind, friendly, helps without being asked, a scholar, hard-working, and such a big heart - so even though I knew my wife was right, that the kitten would become a cat and be left with us, I convinced my wife we should allow the cat.
I discussed the squirrel issue with Clea and Tiffany, neither of whom were interested in lending a hand with patrolling the garden. Neither did they have any suggestions to assist in saving my tomatoes for human consumption. Understanding how well bribery works for politicians, I elected to bribe these two. Tiffany, who is on a strict diet enforced by my wife, immediately informed on me to my beloved bride. After the lecture, browbeating, and days of reminding me of my misguided behavior, I have pledged never again to provide ANY treats to Tiffany. Clea accepted the bribe, then refused to patrol the garden. When I attempted to enforce our agreement, she simply beat me back inside, giving me a contemptuous look as I walked past her.
I have a great view of the garden from our kitchen windows and have resorted to gathering Riley and Beau with me as we charge out the back door toward the garden anytime I see the squirrels in or near the garden. I'm a veteran, I was drafted in '72, and I know how to stand guard. On the other hand, I'm a veteran, drafted in '72, and I've pulled all the guard duty I intend to pull in this lifetime. For that reason, the squirrels are winning the tomato war. I've considered bringing in armament in the form of an old BB rifle my son left here from his childhood, and I don't believe the old thing capable of harming them but perhaps it would sting enough to keep them at bay for a while. I even went as far as firing it near them earlier today, being careful not to hit them - I just don't have the heart. And remember, I'm a veteran, drafted in '72, and though the M16 ejected hot shells that burnt my head, face and neck (I have to fire from my left side, can't focus with my right eye, see my M16 story), I became a sharpshooter due to my concern that I'd be re-cycled through Basic. I can still hit small targets even with the old BB rifle, so I did hit near these pesky squirrels, close enough to alert them and they ran for cover. But they just watched me, and when I returned indoors, they returned to the garden.
I may resort to trapping them and taking them some distance away to begin life in a new forest. Still, I don't wish to break up families and can't stand the thought of possibly taking a child from a mother, so unless I can trap all of them within a couple of hours and take them as a family to live in the forest, I won't be trapping them. It seems they will win the tomato war. But I have a consolation, my cherry tomato vine is doing even better than my tomato vines, and the squirrels don't seem to care for cherry tomatoes. I eat them like candy. I've also written a song, with more on the way, I'm sure. Perhaps the squirrels are actually winning the tomato battles, but I'm winning the Tomato War.

Returning to Music After 34 Years                                

by Earl Usry

Yea, I was one of
those kids, driven to play music, and started my own band at 14. I was driven
to the point that I learned the songs, arranged them so that we weren't a
"copy band," taught them to my bandmates, learned to wheel and deal
in used equipment and repair that equipment so we could play gigs, and I booked
the band. Those were good times for teenage bands and we worked more weekends
than not. It worked through Junior High and High School, even my first year of
college, but I was a High School Graduate of 1971. That was the first year
denied college deferments and with a lottery number of 40, my local draft board
called me up July 1972. I was the only person drafted by my local board in that
call and served two years active duty with mostly "Regular Army"
soldiers, meaning guys who volunteered to serve.

Returning home July
1974, I immediately began work to return to performing music. The band I had
been forced to leave had replaced me with a close friend of mine and they were
doing well, so I became a fan. I met and cultivated relationships with other
musicians and was soon performing again. I also attended college, now with help
from the GI Bill, and was able to put myself through college with that help and
steady work as a performing musician. I would attend school and work a band
until the opportunity to tour became available, at which time I always went on
tour, leaving school. This mindset led me to attend three different
universities and tour into the Northeast and Midwest and of curse the Southeast
over the next ten years.

Thanks to the
influence of a few of my close musical friends, I expanded my musical horizons
from Rock to Jazz and I continued my musical education in theory and the
classics. I also developed my songwriting skills and was involved in three
bands using my songs and recording them. The opportunity to record led to work
as a session player and I was able to work in studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, as
well as studios in Atlanta, GA.

To ensure nothing
interrupted my career in music again, I avoided serious, romantic
relationships. In one touring band we actually had a motto of a girl in every
port, to which I added, "and a kiss goodbye at the dock." I've
recently covered this in a new song titled, "My Heart Is Yours." The
strategy worked well for ten years.

I never saw it
coming. She was another young lady I admired from the stage and met while on
break. We began seeing one another and over the course of a year, without
realizing it, I stopped seeing other ladies. A bandmate had to actually point
that fact out to me. She would later become my wife, and so at 31, after
considering the need to provide stability, health care, and other
considerations one makes for the love of their life, I stopped touring and
began a career with AT&T. Thirty-two years later I captured the night it
began and resulting change in the course of our lives in my Rock Concerto,
"Don't Get Caught."

I continued to
play part-time, mostly Blues and Blues/Rock, and I wrote more songs, recording
them on a cassette four-track machine for another five years. AT&T
transferred me two times in the space of two years as I moved up the corporate
ladder, and before I could settle into my new responsibilities and get out
among the local musicians, we were surprised with our twins.

The pregnancy was
going well. I had been stopping by a music store, playing a Charvel acoustic
guitar for at least two months. It was March 22, 1994, and I'd had a busy day
at the office. On the way home, I stopped by the music store again, went
straight to the Charvel and began playing it. My acoustic guitar had been
stolen three years earlier and I missed playing it. I really liked the Charvel
but wasn't prepared to pay for a new guitar, particularly one as nice as the
Charvel. The shop owner knew we were expecting twins and we had become friends
over the months. He wasn't moving his acoustic guitar stock very well at that
time, and I've always thought he just wanted me to have that guitar, because
that evening he made me an offer I could afford and he included a hard-shell
case, always a requirement of mine.

I brought the guitar
home and played it for the twins and my wife. Early the next morning my wife
awoke me with the news that her water had broken, and off to the hospital we
went. We were all concerned because March 23 was about ten weeks premature. By
11:00 they were unable to delay the birth of our daughter any longer. Margaux
was born at 11:22, Mack was born 11:23. We later learned that during the night
Mack had turned breech, got above his sister and pushed her down the birth
canal until her bag broke. His was intact. I've come to think that hearing me
play guitar the evening before he became restless, resulting in their premature
births. Margaux was 2 lbs. 13 oz, Mack was 4 lbs. and they lived in the NICU
for a month, Mack coming home one week before his sister. We lived at the NICU
during that month, frequently rocking them, feeding them, holding them, making
sure they understood how loved they were.

I was very
involved in raising M&M, participating in many activities with them and
making them a part of almost every aspect of my life. My wife was a member of
the Air National Guard and often during the years I raised them alone. Both
participated in sports, dance and music, both became exceptional musicians and
excelled in their studies. I stopped all activities other than work that did
not include them. I covered much of these times and my deeply felt emotions for
them in the first song I wrote after returning to write, July 2015. I call it,
"Mack & Margaux."

Mack became an
incredible musician, one who could have easily gone professional by the age of
13 or 14, but I feared the influence of a professional environment and he
instead performed in all three county High School Bands, beginning while he was
in Middle School, and the same with the High School Jazz Bands, beginning in
the 6th grade. He is still considered among the best drummers working. He could
have gone on to Berklee after High School, but he felt strongly about serving
his country and gaining the experience of being a part of the military and left
for the US Army two weeks after graduation. I recall asking him if he
remembered my stories of the Army, to which he would reply, "Dad, that was
during the draft. The US Army has been all volunteer since the year after you
were drafted and is much different now." I warned him otherwise, and
before he graduated Basic Training he wrote me to say that I was right, the
army is the army. He served four years. Before he was released he auditioned
for Berklee and was granted a full scholarship. He completed his enlistment end
of May 2016. We began recording the songs I had written the previous twelve
months June 2016. He left for Berklee end of August 2016 and completed his
first year there with a concentration on drums, and he made incredible progress
as a recording engineer.

Margaux became a
true scholar, completed an Honors Program at UNG graduating with honors, and is
now about to begin Med School. She was first chair oboe from eight grade
through High School, a competitive gymnast, competitive dancer, and graduated
with honors from the county Magnet School for Science and Technology. She also
played piano very well and sang in the church choir for years, often as a
soloist. She is an amazing young lady and I've written several songs with her
in mind, but "Girl with the Sun in her Hair" was written specifically
about her determination, motivation and resourcefulness. It was Margaux who
digitized a cassette copy of recordings of my songs from my touring days,
enabling me to hear them again, which prompted my return to writing.

Upon Mack's return
home June 2016, we planned a recording session. The producer, John Howcott, who
had worked with us June 2015, when I arranged with him for a full day at a
professional recording studio to provide Mack with the experience, had been in
contact with me the 12 months after that experience, encouraging me to record
more of my music. Mack had been on leave the year before; now that he was home
for the summer, I wanted to record the songs I had written the previous twelve
months. I was trying to find a good guitar soloist to record with us. We had
worked with my old friend and colleague the year before, but Dave's business
had him too busy this time around. Mack suggested his best friend since they
had met their first year of High School, Cody. Cody had been at our home many
times through the years and was as close to family as one can be, so I
immediately agreed.

The three of us
recoded three days, 12 plus hours each day, at a studio I had worked in back in
the late 70's and early 80's. It was magical. Both boys were so good that
everyone in the studio was buzzing about the songs and the sound we were
getting, and they were bringing friends in to hear us. We had several more
sessions that summer and by mid-August John had played some of the tunes for
folks in the industry who liked what they were hearing, encouraging us to
release an independent album. We did so and Usry & Sons was born, releasing
our first album, "Music's Our Bidness, and Bidness is Bidness"
December 9, 2016.

Cody and I
continued to record that fall, at times with some old friends and colleagues of
mine. Mack recorded with us on his Christmas break, and by late January 2017
was able to record his drum parts remotely, while in Boston, and we continued
to record and store songs as my writing picked up pace. We released Usry &
Sons II, "Workin' da Bidness" August 2017, then Usry & Sons III,
"The Girl with the Sun in her Hair ...and Songs of the Imagination"
January 2018. Our fourth album was completed May 2018 and is awaiting release
due to promotional considerations. It is titled, "Changing Course."

Beyond learning
music and engineering at Berklee his first year, Mack also learned how
difficult it is to earn a steady living in the music industry and became
disillusioned. The same had already happened to Cody, but both still love to
play and record, and still have dreams of breaking into the ranks of successful
performers. Mack currently attends GA State working on a degree in Computer
Science and has started a Web Site Design, Internet Marketing & Management
company. Cody has a successful Mobile Welding business. Both are very busy and
so we get few opportunities to perform as a band, but those few we have
performed have been incredibly successful. We are a high energy, very
entertaining band with music that folks very much enjoy and performance skills that
wow everyone.

I frequently
perform my songs solo as a singer/songwriter, and some of my younger fans have
taken to calling me Papa Usry at these shows. We continue to record together
and have worked exclusively with Karl Heilbron/Periscope Recordings since June
2016. I have now written over 150 songs since beginning again June 2015, and we
have tracks recorded for over 30 songs in addition to the four albums we've
completed.

March 26, 2018, I
was presented with an opportunity to retire from AT&T after 34 years of
service, which I accepted, writing the song, "Changing Course" in
celebration of the event. Since then I've completed our fourth album, made many
more recordings, wrote some twenty-five songs, performed with the boys at a
show, performed numerous times as a soloist, and learned just how different the
music industry is now from the times of my youth. I've learned Social Media is
vitally important, to my dismay, as I prefer to spend my time writing,
recording, practicing and performing. I've discovered interest from multiple
major networks, TV & movie studios to license my songs and use our
recordings. I've also discovered industry interest in our band and our music,
so I'm hopeful we won't always be an undiscovered band.

I've waited 51
years for the opportunity to share my music with the world. My boys grew up
preparing to be musicians and are considered among the very best performing
today. Our music is out there, buried among the many, many other artists the
new music industry environment has enabled. We're on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon,
YouTube, and most digital outlets. We have our web page, www.usryandsons.com
loaded with our music, pics, bios and stories, as well as our sales site,
www.usrysons.com. We have begun to make connections and hope folks notice that
our songs are much more than the music. The poetic lyrics address today's
social and political ills, as well as relationships, family, friends and love,
and they always send a positive message.

Returning to the
music industry after 34 years - not for the faint of heart. But for those who
love music and poetry, who are passionate about it, who know they have unique
and creative things to say and music to share, and who can overcome the
disappointments, what a wonderful and uplifting thing it is.

Army Daze & Beyond

 

That’s Kit Jones, my best friend from my Army days, and me sitting at post one downrange in the missile area, ’73-‘74.  You can see that we weren’t very military in our appearance.  I stayed in trouble for not cutting my hair or shaving on any regular basis.  Nor did I ever starch and iron my fatigues or polish my boots, and I often had those long johns rolled up over my sleeves.  It drove Top up the wall and we had several confrontations about that and my lack of military discipline.  But I was a 24U, an Electronics Guidance & Nike-Herc Missile Specialist, and I was responsible for maintaining the missiles in Ready Status.  With the help of the small Assembly crew, we were good at our jobs and got the many routines done when we were down in status.   I don’t recall ever having to come down in status during our weeks of assigned “Up” in status, which got our captain a check by his name and helped his career.  As a result, I got away with being unmilitary in my appearance and demeanor.

We were stationed at an isolated missile battery in southwest Germany, actually West Germany in those days.  The Cold War had Germany split into the free & democratic West Germany, and Communist East Germany, a satellite state of the USSR.  Our missile battery was a part of NATO and served to prevent the further expansion of the USSR.  Some of the missiles carried a nuclear warhead, making us a target for those seeking to capture a nuclear warhead.

Because of this, we provided 24x7 guard duty with a complete crew ready to defend the missile area, which we called downrange, that was located about two miles from our small Admin area at the end of a small road that came to a dead end in the forest.  There was a tall chain-link fence with Constantine razor wire at the top encircling the entire downrange area.  Within this area was a second, tall chain-link fence with Constantine razor wire set ten feet back and lights mounted on six-foot-tall posts that illuminated out from the downrange area every ten feet.  We had guards in towers and at the two gates of each fence.

When it became foggy, a frequent occurrence in that part of Germany, the backup guard was alerted, which was made up of those of us not on guard duty at the time.  If the fog got bad enough that vision was impaired, backup guard was taken downrange and deployed around the interior perimeter fence to guard against anyone taking advantage of the low visibility situation and attempting to gain access.  A couple of times during my tour of duty, Military Intelligence (MI) reported to us that there was evidence of a planned attempt to invade our downrange area, and those reports were accompanied with severe fog.  As I recall, both times were during the winter and it was very cold.

I wrote the song, I Will Stand with You based on these occurrences.  We were taken downrange in the back of a Deuce and a Half, then stationed along the interior perimeter fence, down on the ground with M16’s locked & loaded, peering out searching for anything that moved.  We were told MI had evidence of a planned attack, and the conditions were favorable for an attack, so everyone was concerned that an attack may come.  We knew that if a force breached the exterior perimeter fence, the barns containing the missiles would be destroyed, if not by us, by the Air Force.  During a Tactical Evaluation a couple of months earlier, with a very low ceiling, heavy overcast, the Air Force demonstrated how good they were at dropping two F4 Phantoms out of that low, heavy overcast at the edge of downrange and slowly flying over the area low enough that I could see the two-man crew in each F4 with their masks on, looking back at me.  I had no doubt they would destroy downrange if the exterior perimeter fence was breached.  At such times its your buddy you stand with, that you determine you will not abandon. 

Fortunately, there was no attack on either occasion.  As the fog lifted in the early morning hours, we were commanded to stand down, pulled ourselves together, walked back up to the gate, crawled back into the Deuce and a Half and taken back to the Admin area to clean up and prepare for another work day.

The second photo is Kit playing his guitar with me playing the harmonica.  That’s Kit’s dog, Taylor.  Taylor was one of the pups from Bobo and Dizzy, two of the big, long-haired German Shepherds we kept downrange.  Dennis Wintin, another good friend, got Dylan, and Earl Sayer, another good friend got Honey.  There are some great stories involving those dogs, particularly Bobo, who was large and aggressive toward those he didn’t know, but that’s another story for another time.

Kit and I often played guitar together, and I often played the harmonica.  We played together enough that we decided when we got out we would start a band together, which brings us to the third photo, taken the year after we completed our military obligation.

This photo was taken in Statesboro, GA, summer ’75, a year after I was discharged.  I was attending GSU, as was Nelms Graham, far right standing.  That’s his brother, Nicky, sitting, a very good guitarist.  We did a lot of Country Rock and some Blues Rock.  The band was short lived, just under a year, but enjoyable.  I recently learned that Nicky died several years back, a stunning revelation for me that caused me a surprising amount of grief.  I thought of both Graham boys as good friends, easy to get along with and a pleasure to work with in a band.

     I played the circuit many years as the band's bass player, vocalist and songwriter, usually performing 5 to 6 evenings a week, and I like a bright but deep & punchy tone.  My attitude as the band bass player was always that the bottom was my responsibility, that I had to enhance the music, that I must team with the drummer, and be creative.  To that end, tone was important, and over the years I made these discoveries...
     I found putting the right amp rig together was fundamental to getting the desired tone, along with identifying the right bass.  I went thru many bass instruments, including two Rick 4001s, multiple Fender P and Jazz basses, even a Gibson once, and with the exception of the Gibson, I liked them all, but I didn't like them all evening, night after night.  I did really like the MusicMann Stingray when I had the opportunity to play a close friend's Stingray (many thanks to Bill Farris, a close friend since we were 14 and who remains a close friend to this day), but the Stingray was a new and popular bass at the time and I couldn't afford it.  Then I read about Leo Fender and George Fullerton putting together G&L, found several G&L basses at a music store I had done a lot of business with over the years (these were the initial shipments of G&L basses), and I began regularly visiting the music store and playing these remarkable basses for hours. 
     They came with the things I always did to improve every Fender I had, a bridge like a BADASS II and great tuning keys. And of course they featured the perfected contured and cutaway body that made them so comfortable to play for hours, cutaway body at the neck for reaching high notes, and an outstanding balance when worn with a strap. They also had a solid, hard-rock maple neck, double p/u properly positioned on the body between the bridge and neck, with a 3-way selector switch located in the perfect position to use when performing with the instrument, and tone/volume controls well positioned for a performing player. A well built bass that could endure the rigors of traveling with me on the circuit and being played almost nightly.  Management of that store gave me an incredible deal that I could afford (traded in a very nice Fender Jazz - with improvements - at a time when the Jazz was so popular and the G&L unknown), and I took possession of a Cherry L1000 G&L Bass in 1981 which I still have and use. 
     For my amp rig, an old, very sturdy Ampeg two 15" front loaded cabinet with two ports, SRO speakers, and of all things what was then a new product for Peavy, a very good SS 100 watt two channel amp head, with both a graphic EQ and parametric EQ.  The old Ampeg cabinet had seen road work and showed it, but was so heavy duty and well built that it only looked used - the sound was solid.  When it comes to bass amp cabinets, Ampeg led the way in those days and I've noticed a lot of their old cabinets still around.  I used a sturdy hand-truck to move it.  I also replaced the two 15" speakers with two 15" SRO speakers I picked up that had been blown.  I had the re-cone lady I knew re-cone them with her best and most heavy-duty cone, and mounted them in the cabinet.  I had a great sounding amp rig with a lot of versatility, and I found many of my fellow bass players cast eyes green with envy after hearing that rig in action; something they did not do upon seeing it as it did look rough, but then - that fit my personality quite well.
     To get the tone I demanded night after night, I made a habit of thoroughly cleaning each bass string after each use.  I found the Fast Fret product to be very good with this effort, and I still have the same kit I got in early 1982 - it lasts a long time. I added a very small, tiny bottle of silicone lubricant to use with the kit, but only every now and again, and still have that tiny bottle.  I bought premium round-wound strings, but changed them no more than quarterly when I played the circuit.  These days I mostly record with that bass, and tone is important, but changing strings any more frequently than annually just isn't necessary. 
     The past three years I've played guitar much more than bass, and use the same strategy with guitar strings, though I do change them more frequently than bass strings.  Keep in mind that a thorough cleaning means taking several minutes, ensuring each string is cleaned, all sides - not just a wipe down the top of the strings, and done after playing before the instrument is put away.  I still get a nice, bright sound, with the punchy bottom I require for bass, and a nice, bright and full sound with my guitars, but I don't change strings frequently. 
     I also wipe down my instruments, because I work hard on stage and I sweat a lot.  My old G&L looks like a bass that has played the circuit, but not to the extent that it should.  A finish will last much longer with a thorough wipe down and occasional polish, despite playing an instrument for hours and sweating all over it.  The dings one accumulates performing a lot can't be helped, but in my book that's memories and character.  If my instruments could speak and tell their stories....

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